When you eat dinner at home with your friends and family members, do you all gather around the kitchen table? Do you use fine china or paper plates? Did you know that there are rules about how you're supposed to set the table? It's true!

What are we talking about? Etiquette! Etiquette refers to a set of basic rules for proper behavior in various situations. Today, we'll be concentrating on showing good manners at the table.

For example, to set the table properly, you need to know where to put the utensils in relation to the plate. And, no, it's not proper etiquette to put them all in a pile in the middle of the plate!

Basically, forks go on the left and knives and spoons go on the right. Of course, it will depend upon how many utensils you're using, which in turn will depend upon how fancy your meal is. If you have a lot of utensils, such as salad forks and soup spoons, the utensils you'll use first go on the outside.

A couple of other rules to remember: (1) knife blades should always face the plate; and (2) the napkin goes to the left of the forks or on the plate. If you remember those basics, you'll be setting the table properly in no time!

Of course, there are many other rules of etiquette one must know in order to behave properly at the dinner table. Learning good manners is important, because it's an important way of showing respect for others in a social setting.

Here are some of the more important table manners everyone should know and practice at the table:

  • Wash up first! Before you come to the table to eat, clean up. Wash your hands and face. If your hair is messy, brush it. Take pride in your appearance!
  • Put your napkin in your lap and keep it there until you need to use it.
  • Don't start eating until everyone is seated and ready to eat. Once you start eating, take it slow and easy. Make conversation and maintain eye contact with others.
  • Use your nice words, like “please" and “thank you," when asking others to pass food. Be gracious to the cook and compliment the meal…even if it wasn't your favorite! Offer to help clean up when the meal is finished.
  • Use your utensils and not your hands! Also you should chew with your mouth closed and refrain from making rude noises.

These are just a few guidelines, but they're good ones to remember. Use your common sense. Most people know the basic rules of good behavior, so be sure to show what you know when you eat with others!

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